I am working on an automated gate positioner for a drill press. This gate will move back and forth by a set distance so lining up the drill press is automatic.

I have tested with the Z axis of a cheap 3D printer using a stepper motor and a threaded rod. However, this does not seem to be fast enough although quite accurate. What would be a suitable design to enable speed of about 8ft/sec and accuracy of ~1mm. Thinking about a belt system but would like some opinions. Thank you!

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Air rams may work for that. $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Dec 31, 2021 at 21:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @peter max travel distance would be 8ft $\endgroup$ Dec 31, 2021 at 21:40
  • $\begingroup$ Following from PeteW's comment, what is the mass that needs accelerating? I think you would get better feedback if you provided more information (and pictures or drawings) related your application. Because based on the comment that you started with a cheap 3d printer, to achieve something that potentially would cost several thousands dollars, I get the feeling that something important is not conveyed. $\endgroup$
    – NMech
    Jan 1, 2022 at 7:41
  • $\begingroup$ If the motion is always the same distance, you’ll be better off with a pneumatic piston. $\endgroup$
    – Eric S
    May 20 at 21:36

1 Answer 1


Lets take a look at how a position control system would look with a stepper + timing belt system. This won't consider loads and size of motor.

Preview: It gets close. A servo-motor belt driven system could be a possibility. A higher-end stepper (double resolution with a good driver) may do it, but would need to be looked at very carefully.

Say top linear speed = 4.5 m/s , and around 0.3s acceleration and deceleration. Thus 1s motion travels approx 3m, which leaves a little bit to spare vs the 8ft requirement.

Lets say 50mm diameter belt drive gear =~ 150mm circumference, thus to get 4500mm/s, we will need 30 rev/sec = 1800 RPM. With a properly sized driver and modest load, you could get a standard 200step/rev stepper motor to 300RPM (1000 step/s), so a 1:6 gearing for increased speed becomes required based on that.

Standard stepper resolution is 1/200 rev at full-step, 1/400 rev at half-step, which becomes 1/67 rev at half-step resolution after the 6x gear ratio. Multiply by drive gear circumference = 150mm/67 = 2.25mm nominal linear resolution at half step. Not good enough, but not impossibly far away.

Discussion with an industrial automation sales person might get something useful.


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